Severe weather events, including the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle, saw the Firstlight Network team (formerly Eastland Network) work tirelessly throughout the summer of 2023. At the same time, the Network still had its planned programme of works to deliver, as they continued to maintain and improve energy resilience for their customers and communities throughout Tairāwhiti and Wairoa.
A key part of this programme was the region’s first installation of a Base Power standalone power system which was completed on a remote property beyond the Tarndale slip, one of the largest land movements in the remote Raukūmara Range.
Multiple weather events had caused repeated damage over several years to the 16 km power line that served just one property, leaving the owners without power on a number of occasions and meaning that the Network had to make repeated and extensive repairs.
Together, the Firstlight Network team and Base Power, along with the owner of the property, came up with a robust and innovative off-grid solar solution to protect the property’s power supply.
Base Power Business Manager, Kieran McNair said, “Base Power was developed by Powerco to give an off-grid option in areas where maintaining the line was having a real impact on our customers in challenging terrains. Our standard system of a solar array paired with a smart energy management system and back-up generator adds a lot of security and value for both the customers and the network operators.”
Taking a property off the grid is a big decision, so Firstlight Network’s General Manager, Jarred Moroney, wanted to ensure any off-grid solution stacked up against what the network could provide.
“We have a responsibility to our customers to make sure we’ve considered all the options. In these remote spots that are prone to storms, slips and trees causing havoc on our lines, we need to weigh up the best solution for the network and the customer at the end of the line. In this case, it made sense for us to set the property up with everything they need to have the same quality of power as when they were connected. But now they don’t have to worry about what’s happening down the valley – everything they need to get their power is right there out the back door.”
Base Power’s experience in designing and delivering utility scale off-grid solutions for lines companies in both New Zealand and Australia - as well as their fleet of standalone power systems (SAPS) deployed on sites powering farm buildings, worksites, residences, communications towers, DOC huts and even a school - meant this rural property was all in a day’s work for the remote area specialists.
Base Power worked alongside the Firstlight team to build a bespoke plan to meet the customer’s energy requirements, optimise the assets required, and upskilled the Network team’s knowledge in solar and battery storage installations.
Beyond the hardware, Base Power’s added smarts include solar forecasting to minimise generator runtime, embedded communication devices to share the system status in real time, and plenty of supporting resources for both the customer and the lines crews.
McNair said, “We’ve seen the impact climate change is having on our electricity networks – Tairāwhiti has already been hit hard this year and we know it’s not going to get any easier. We also know people want to take control of how and where they are sourcing their energy.
“The property near the Tarndale is a perfect example of where off-grid and non-network solutions can help lines companies invest in maintenance and line upgrades in locations where it can have the greatest effect.”
PHOTO: A Base Power energy system and back-up generator overlook the solar array powering the remote property.